Israel votes in pivotal elections | News | DW | 09.04.2019
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Israel votes in pivotal elections

The election is billed as a referendum on Benjamin Netanyahu, who has led Israel for more than a decade. His centrist challenger is hoping to unseat the right-wing politician and usher in change.

Polls opened on Tuesday in Israel's parliamentary elections with more than 6 million people eligible to vote.

The election is billed as the toughest challenge yet for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been rocked by corruption probes.

Read more: Is Israel ready for fundamental political change?

The latest:

  • Polls have put the Blue and White party of former military chief Benny Gantz ahead of Netanyahu's Likud.
  • But polls shows that Israelis largely believe Netanyahu will retain the premiership due his ability to bring together right-wing parties into a governing coalition.
  • Netanyahu cast his vote in Jerusalem, where he said, "There are many people who want us to continue this fantastic journey
    which brought Israel to its best decade in history."
  • Gantz voted in his hometown of Rosh Haayin in central Israel and called on all Israelis to vote and "take responsibility" for their democracy.

Power politics

Netanyahu, who leads a right-wing party, has attempted to garner support by targeting Arab Israelis and others. In a bid to shore up support on the right, he vowed to annex Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. Far-right parties have long sought such pledges.

His centrist challenger, Gantz, has instead promised to support a "globally backed peace agreement" to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that would still allow Israel to exercise some form of jurisdiction in settlements. He has also tried to capitalize on the corruption investigations involving Netanyahu.

Benny and Revital Gantz casting their votes

Benny and Revital Gantz casting their votes

Read more: Ultranationalists to play kingmakers after Israeli election 

 Who is Netanyahu?

Netanyahu is a right-of-center Israeli politician who has held the premiership for four mandates. However, over the years, he has started to employ populist tactics, like those used the US President Donald Trump, to win over voters.

In the 2015 election, Netanyahu won the election by galvanizing last-minute voters, alleging on election day that "Arab voters are heading to the polling stations in droves" and that "left-wing NGOS are bringing them in on buses."

Israel has had an average voter turnout of 77 percent since it first went to the polls in 1949.

Read more: Why the world is watching Israeli TV series

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ls/aw (AFP, dpa)